TaoTronics Bluetooth Transmitter

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Several months ago I decided to purchase a set of Bluetooth headphones so I could, on occasion, watch TV in the bedroom late at night without disturbing my wife. At one time I had a wireless headphones set that worked well for this purpose but they were simply very bulky (both the charging unit and the headphones themselves). I attempted to use a jail-broken iPod as well but I wasn’t satisfied with that either.


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The TV itself doesn’t support Bluetooth so I decided to purchasing a Bluetooth audio transmitter. In this case, one manufactured by TaoTronics, which is small and reliable. Overall the device is very good but there is a slight delay in the audio that is noticeable relative to the action on TV, especially with dialog, though I grew accustomed to it rather quickly.

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Using a Zubie Key: A Year in Review

Zubie

Almost a year ago I purchased a Zubie Key, which is a device that can be used to track the location, and monitor the status, of a vehicle through a vehicle’s OBD-II port. This device has a built-in cellular connection and requires a yearly subscription fee of about $100. My motivation at the time was to integrate it into my home automation setup, which I actually did by connecting it to the IFTTT service combined with text message notifications that my home automation software can receive and process.

A year later I am uncertain whether or not I will continue to pay for the service. Mind you, it is not bad and has lived up to my expectations. But with daycare and various other child-related costs I’m not sure that it’s worth (that suddenly more valuable amount of) $100.

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Blogging Hiatus

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus for nearly a year. The first half of the break was the result of other responsibilities and, quite simply, not feeling too eager to spend a lot of time on a laptop after work. The other half was the result of, well, a new addition to our family, which I hinted at in my last post. We had our first child last summer, which kept me preoccupied before and after he was born.

So, what follows is an attempt to add some new posts. I can’t guarantee that I’ll go back to my previous frequency of posts. In fact, that seems highly unlikely, especially since my buying power for gadgets has been, uh, significantly altered. But over the past several months I have accumulated a few things that I wanted to get around to mentioning at some point.

Baby Monitor (Temporarily) Killed Z-Wave Network

Late last week I started to experience problems with various Z-Wave modules that began having communication problems. One module refused to work at all and others, including our thermostats, demonstrated frequent communication problems.

This was frustrating because I had never experienced communication issues with my Z-Wave gear; it is one of the reasons that I have come to prefer Z-Wave.

At first I thought it was a software issue and then I began checking batteries and routing. After a couple of days I figured out what was actually causing the problem.

Our baby monitors were creating interference. It turns out that the monitors operate in the 900 MHz range and so does Z-Wave. This also explained why it wasn’t my entire Z-Wave network that had problems; only the devices clustered in and near the nursery.

The monitor that we have provides a button to change available channels. Tapping this a few times adjusted the frequency of the monitors enough to remove the interference. Ever since then the communication problems have disappeared (in fact, the change was nearly instant).

Using a Blacklight Flashlight to Find Dried Dog Urine and Lost Toys

Blacklight

Yes, you read that correctly. A while back I purchased a blacklight flashlight to find dried dog urine in our house. Why? Because when you have two young puppies it’s not uncommon to identify the smell of urine but to not be able to find the source…

They’ve grown a good bit since I originally purchased it and it’s less of an issue now. That’s not to imply that they don’t “go” in the house anymore but it’s not as frequent and also less likely that we won’t notice.

There was a time, however, when they would frequently sneak off and piss in a corner or under a table and we wouldn’t notice it for a while. On wooden floors can be difficulty to see after it has dried.

Does this work? The short is answer is that yes, it does.

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The Forgotten Role of Technology: One Step Away from Magic

I’ve noticed an increasingly more prevalent theme this year. The core theme is the concept of technology that is so ubiquitous and elegant that it appears to work like magic. For most of us that is rarely our experience. Often technology, whether we’re using an electronic tool that performs some physical work, or a piece of software that executes a virtual action, rarely seems like magic.

Some of this is simply due to the fact that most of us have developed a specific level of expectation over time through gradual changes that occur across the span of decades. There are certainly many things that might be perceived as magical to someone from an earlier time, whether it was someone from five hundred years ago or only a decade ago.  Perhaps magic, in this context, might be defined as something that is done for you that you didn’t even think about when you made it happen. Like turning on a light switch or opening a door, except the level of interaction is subtler.

Earlier this year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join a college at a conference where Josh Clark, a user interface design expert, presented along with several other experts. While there we also had the opportunity to speak with him directly at one of the lunches, where he joined our table. Much of our discussion was on this very subject as was his presentation. His topic, of technology functioning like magic, was engaging and, in my opinion, a change heading toward us rather quickly.

I love technology. I enjoy learning about new innovations and gadgets and I have spent several late nights and weekends just tinkering with devices and software, sometimes without a defined goal. Some of those projects were dead ends. Others were successes. I learned from each one.

Yet, over the years, I continue to notice one problem with much of the technology that we have at our disposal.

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